WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange issued several public statements about murdered Democratic National Committee (DNC) staffer Seth Rich which were “apparently designed to obscure the source” of the stolen DNC emails published in July 2016 by WikiLeaks, according to special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian collusion in the 2016 election.
The Russian Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, infiltrated the DNC’s network in April 2016, and by June had stolen over 20,000 emails from its mail server, which were later released by WikiLeaks in July, just three days before the Democratic National Convention.
Mueller determined that “it is clear” that the DNC emails “were transferred from the GRU to WikiLeaks,” noting that the two parties communicated extensively through email, Twitter direct messages and other online channels beginning in June 2016.
Less than two weeks before WikiLeaks released the stolen DNC emails, Rich, 27, was killed in Washington D.C. in what Metropolitan Police have determined was a botched robbery attempt. The timing of Rich’s murder in close proximity to the WikiLeaks release of stolen DNC emails provided the impetus for a conspiracy theory that he was the source of the leak.
Assange helped fan the flames of the conspiracy by issuing cryptic statements to the media about Rich’s murder and by offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of his killer.
“Whistleblowers go to significant efforts to get us material, and often very significant risks. There’s a 27-year-old, works for the DNC, who was shot in the back, murdered just a few weeks ago for unknown reasons as he was walking down the street in Washington,” Assange said on a Dutch program in August 2016.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) August 11, 2016
“If there’s someone who’s potentially connected to our publication, and that person has been murdered in suspicious circumstances, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the two are connected,” Assange told former Fox News host Megyn Kelly in August 2016. “But it is a very serious matter … that type of allegation is very serious, as it’s taken very seriously by us.”
Mueller said in his report that the information his team uncovered about WikiLeaks and the GRU “discredit WikiLeaks’s claims about the source of material that it posted.”
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